Jesus and the Oral Torah: Tithing

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Tithing is a biblical commandment set forth in Leviticus 27:30-33, Deuteronomy 14:22-29 and Deuteronomy 26:12-14. Most Christians would probably agree that Jesus observed this commandment since the New Testament clearly states, “having been born under the Torah, he committed no sin” (Gal. 4:4; 1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15). However, the question is, did Jesus observe the commandment to tithe as it was interpreted in the Oral Torah? The biblical commandment was to tithe only on grain, wine and oil. The sages extended this commandment to include tithing on "anything used for food."

This article is one of a six-part series by David Bivin entitled Jesus and the Oral Torah.
Revised: 30-Oct-16

Tithing is a biblical commandment set forth in Leviticus 27:30-33, Deuteronomy 14:22-29 and Deuteronomy 26:12-14. Most Christians would probably agree that Jesus observed this commandment since the New Testament clearly states, “having been born under the Torah, he committed no sin” (Gal. 4:4; 1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15). However, the question is, did Jesus observe the commandment to tithe as it was interpreted in the Oral Torah? The biblical commandment was to tithe only on grain, wine and oil. The sages extended this commandment to include tithing on “anything used for food.”

The Gospels give the general impression that Jesus dutifully adhered to the practices of observant Jews of his day, and that his attitude toward these practices was guided by the interpretations of the sages as expressed in the Oral Torah. There is no specific reference in the New Testament to Jesus’ tithing. Yet Jesus did make a statement that indirectly witnesses to his observance of this commandment.

Light and Heavy Commandments

It is sometimes suggested that Jesus criticized the Pharisees for being so pedantic as to tithe even the spices and herbs in their gardens (Matt. 23:23).

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